Democrats Reject Proposal to Cut Benefits for Injured Federal Workers
The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on May 20 to review the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposal that would cut workers’ compensation benefits for some federal workers who have been disabled due to job-related injuries.
Democratic committee members rejected the proposal, claiming it would leave most workers considerably worse off than if they had not incurred the injury. Rep. Robert C. (Bobby) Scott of Virginia, a ranking member of the full committee, and Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a ranking member of the subcommittee, emphasized how essential the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) is to federal workers and their families.
“I am disappointed that the Department of Labor would come forward for the third time in the past five years with a proposal to cut benefits for injured workers that is not evidence-based, and whose justification has been completely debunked by the Government Accountability Office,” said Scott. “I find it incomprehensible that we are now considering whether to take $500 million from middle class workers – and their families – who have suffered a disabling work-related injury while doing their jobs in service to the American people.”
The Department of Labor’s proposal would reform FECA by making changes to, among other things:
- Wage replacement benefits for injured workers;
- Benefits for widow(ers) and children of those killed on the job; and
- Up to 33 percent of benefits for all permanently disabled workers at the time they reach retirement age.
“We cannot make budget cuts on the backs of injured federal workers and families who have lost a loved one,” said Wilson. “As regrettable as it is, workplace injuries and deaths do occur. When they do, we must ensure that the workers who have committed themselves to federal service are honored by a system that does not leave them and their families financially worse off than if the injury or death had not occurred.”
Republicans on May 20 proposed adopting some or all of the cuts as part of their budget reconciliation package. Among those affected by the cuts are several etter carriers and the widow of a federal prison guard who attended the hearing.
OSHA: Injured Workers Suffer Financial Losses
Currently, claimants who have dependents to support receive wage-loss compensation of 75 percent. DOL has proposed reducing that to 70 percent and increasing the wage-loss compensation for claimants without dependents from 66.66 percent to 70 percent. Some proposals have suggested reducing wage-loss compensation for all injured workers to 66.66 percent. Proponents claim that a 75 percent wage-loss compensation creates a disincentive for workers to return to work.
Ironically, back in March, OSHA issued a report, “Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job,” that noted the heavy costs work injuries and illnesses impose on workers, families and the economy, stating, “Statistics are people with the tears washed off.”
The report from OSHA notes that on average, a worker who is seriously injured will earn 15 percent less over a 10-year period and will bear 50 percent of the costs associated with that injury.
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